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Geochemical Technician


A wealth of information is buried in the liquids, gases and mineral deposits of rock. Geochemical technicians assist geochemists in studying the chemical makeup and interactions of earth materials. They assist in the study of the composition and alterations of the solid matter of the earth.

Helping to understand the chemical composition of rocks helps many different industries. It tells oil companies where to drill for oil, enables scientists to put together broad based theories about the way the earth is changing and thereby helps environmental management companies decide how to dispose of a toxic or hazardous substance, and it steers mining companies towards use of natural resources with a minimal environmental impact.

Assisting the work of geochemists and geochemical engineers, geochemical technicians help develop processes, design and improve already-designed equipment for testing different functions of our natural environment. They perform a number of technical tasks that help improve scientific methods, products and equipment.

Geochemical technicians may also be in charge of maintaining equipment in a laboratory. It is up to them to decide if new equipment is needed, or if it would be possible to fix old equipment. Geochemical technicians often work with dangerous materials and work in the field, exposed to dangerous chemicals. Therefore, they must follow strict safety standards and wear proper equipment and clothing.

With experience, geochemical technicians may create rough designs on computers using computer-aided design (CAD) systems, which simulate realistic three-dimensional models and test and predict possible errors and problems with a mechanism, generating workable solutions. Although a great deal of work takes place on computers or in laboratories, geochemical technicians often work outdoors in the field with geochemists, taking samples of rocks, water and soil.

Geochemical technicians are hired by the mining industry to assist in exploration. They help geochemists explain to geologists how ore is distributed and why mineral concentrations occur in some areas, but not in others. Geochemical technicians assist structural geologists to unravel the secrets of specific ore deposits, and, in doing so, provide valuable clues to the discovery of the new deposits.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Geochemical technicians are analytical, creative and innovative thinkers with excellent problem solving skills. They have a natural affinity and aptitude for mathematics and science and can often visualize complex processes and design on computers. They possess excellent communication skills, both written and oral, and have the ability to work well in teams with people from various disciplines and backgrounds. They also possess the ability to pay close attention to details.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Assist in setting up and conducting geochemical experiments, tests and analyses
  • Operate and maintain laboratory equipment and apparatus and prepare solutions, reagents and sample formulations
  • Compile records for analytical laboratory and field studies
  • Assist in developing and conducting geochemical programs of sampling and analysis
  • Test the quality of rocks, record types and results, and write reports
  • Carry out a limited range of other technical functions in support of geochemical research, tests and analyses
  • Assist in the design and fabrication of experimental apparatus
  • Geochemical technicians usually work regular hours in offices, research labs and field sites. A majority of their time is spent on the computer, preparing layouts, statistical studies and analyses. Some work in teams with engineers and technologists in the field, collecting various rock samples to analyze. Some geochemical technicians may travel to attend conferences to upgrade their knowledge and skills.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Geochemical technicians are employed by research and development laboratories, geochemical consulting companies, and geology associations. They also work in the chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical industries, environmental firms, and a variety of other manufacturing and processing industries, and by health, education and government establishments.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Experienced geochemical technicians may advance to become technologists or senior technical supervisors. Some geochemical technicians that take additional training can teach in technical institutes. Others may work as technical writers or as salespersons for geochemical engineering products. With further education, they can become geochemical engineering technologists and teach at the postsecondary level.

  Educational Paths  
Geochemical technicians usually require completion of a one- or two-year college program in chemical, geochemical or geochemical engineering technology. Certification in geochemical technology or in a related field is available through associations of technicians and may be required by some employers. Usually, a two-year period of supervised work experience is required before certification as a geochemical technician.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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